FanDuel Pitching Primer: Friday 5/11/18

Three studs headline the top pitching options on tonight's main slate. Who are the cheaper options to consider?

In daily fantasy baseball, success starts with nailing the starting pitcher spot in your lineup.

When compared to hitters, pitching performance tends to be much more predictable and stable throughout the course of the season. You know what you're getting from a top-level ace when you roster him: probably a dominant effort with only one or two implosions per season. In contrast, even the game's best hitters have days at the plate when they go 0-for-4.

As a result, lineup construction should begin with the starting pitcher. Each day we will highlight a starter to consider from each pricing tier, and we'll also look at one contrarian play for tournaments.

Who should you consider on tonight's main slate?

High-Priced Stud

Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals

at Arizona Diamondbacks
FanDuel Price: $11,700

We have another bevy of pitching options at the top on tonight's slate, starting with Max Scherzer. In the top tier alone we have Scherzer, Chris Sale and Justin Verlander to choose from. Scherzer separates himself from the pack with his unbelievable 40% strikeout rate. The question with a number that high is can it be sustained? The crazy thing is, with Mad Max, it definitely is sustainable, as the jump from 34.4 last season isn't too extreme, and his 17.4% swinging-strike rate backs it up.

The Diamondbacks' offense ranks fifth in the majors in strikeout rate and has the sixth-lowest team wOBA against right-handed pitching. Scherzer has had some issues with left-handed batters in the past, but the four lefties the Diamondbacks could deploy are only a combined 9-for-43 (.209) lifetime against Scherzer.

Scherzer has been a bit more hittable on the road, allowing a .305 wOBA away from home compared to a .170 wOBA at Nationals Park. Scherzer's career splits, however, are pretty neutral so I wouldn't look to much into the small sample size so far this season.

At the top of the salary spectrum, Scherzer and Sale are neck-and-neck as the top option, with Justin Verlander in the mix as well. Scherzer's strikeout upside gives him the nod as the ace of choice on tonight's slate.

Mid-Range Play

Trevor Bauer, Cleveland Indians

vs. Kansas City Royals
FanDuel Price: $9,500

Trevor Bauer has seen a rise in his strikeout rate over each of the last three seasons, and this year he sports a current career-best 28%. Bauer has also seen a decrease of nearly 100 points in his BABIP from last year (.337 to .239). Unfortunately for Bauer and the Indians, he has only two wins to show for his hot start, despite posting a stellar 2.53 ERA. The Indians are large favorites (-235) tonight against the Royals, so this is a good spot for Bauer to pick up a victory and the extra fantasy points that follow.

Kansas City's offense doesn't strike out much versus right-handed pitching, as their 16% K rate is the lowest in all of baseball. But while they put the ball in play, their team OPS (.713) ranks as the fourth-lowest against right-handers, so the damage has been limited.

With a solid matchup against a weak offense, and the expected run support (Cleveland projected for 5.3 runs), Bauer is the top play of the night in the middle tier.

Value Option

Luke Weaver, St. Louis Cardinals

at San Diego Padres
FanDuel Price: $5,900

Luke Weaver hasn't quite lived up to the breakout hype thrust upon him at the beginning of the season. But with Coors Field on the slate, along with a ton of other high-priced bats, Weaver makes sense as someone to consider as a cheap option.

The Cardinals' righty owns a 5.60 ERA through 35.1 innings, but both his FIP (3.44) and xFIP (4.54) suggest some positive regression could be in store. He gets to pitch in the best pitcher's park in the majors against a team with the highest strikeout rate against right-handed pitching (27.1%). The Cards are sizable favorites (-144) in this contest, so Weaver has a decent chance at securing a win.

Seven teams have an implied run total of five or better tonight, so GPP-winning lineups are going to need some offense. Weaver provides the salary relief necessary to allow you to do just that.

Contrarian Play

Justin Verlander, Houston Astros

vs. Texas Rangers
FanDuel Price: $11,300

Justin Verlander always seems to be on the same slate as guys like Scherzer, Sale and Corey Kluber. While most gravitate towards this big-three most of the time, Verlander has shown that he belongs in the same tier. Naturally, his ownership is typically suppressed due to the perception that Scherzer and Sale (on tonight's slate, too) possess more upside. But again, Verlander is right there with them.

Verlander currently has a career-best 35% strike out rate while also maintaining a career-low walk rate (5.5%). His hard-hit rate is down 10 percentage points from last season and his .145 opponent batting average is the best in baseball.

As for the matchup, the Texas Rangers trail only the Padres in terms of strikeout rate as a team (26.3%), and have the second-lowest wOBA in the American League, at just .302. To make matters worse for Texas, Verlander has already owned them through 14 innings this year, striking out 16, and allowing only 5 hits and 1 earned run.

At this rate, if Verlander isn't the highest-owned pitcher when he toes the rubber, you would be foolish to not have some shares of him. He has been dominant but continues to fly under-the-radar. Despite how well he's pitched, he still profiles to be a contrarian play, and a great one at that.

Drew Crawford is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Drew Crawford also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username squid0308. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in his articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.